Because of the odd, but real, pandemic-driven toilet paper shortages, more and more homeowners have added, or are considering adding toilet seat bidets to their homes. So, this week I thought it would be valuable to revisit an episode about bidets. Now, keep in mind, bidets won’t usually completely eliminate the need for toilet paper, but will usually reduce your need to just a few squares per bathroom break.
As you’ll hear, you’ll want to tell your electrician where you want to include toilet seat bidets so he can install an outlet near the toilet. But what I’ve learned since that show, is that you’ll also want to instruct your plumber to plumb those toilets with both cold and hot water. Typically a toilet only gets cold water, but if you’re adding a bidet, you don’t want a shocking blast of just cold water on your bottom when you activate the bidet. You’ll want comfortably warm water, so make sure you tell your builder or plumber that you want a cold and hot water mix for your bidets.
A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed by someone who was writing an article for realtor.com. She wanted me to talk about what I call practical luxury. What I mean by practical luxury is something that’s an indulgence, not a necessity, but that you and your family will actually use on a pretty regular basis. Gone are the days when average homeowners are adding luxurious features to their homes simply for bragging rights, or to keep up with the Jones.
This week we’ll talk about 2 practical indulgences for your master bathroom that, for most people, are totally worth the splurge. We’ll cover radiant heated floors and bidet toilet seats. These features will not only make your bathroom more luxurious, but they can add value to your home and make it stand out among other homes on the market, if you ever decide to sell. Practical luxury is a current trend that I believe will continue to be important in new homes for many years to come.
Before we get to the mini lesson, let me briefly tell you about Thin set, our pro term this week.
Thin set is an adhesive, bonding material that’s a blend of cement, very fine sand, and a hydrating, water retention compound. Thin set is used to set tile. Tile set with this method is attached to its surface with a thin layer of "thinset." This type of mortar is designed to adhere well with just a thin layer - usually measuring 1/8 to 3/16th of an inch thick. Thin set is also called thin set cement, thin set mortar, dryset mortar, and drybond mortar.
Alright, moving on to some practical luxury for your master bathroom that’s totally worth the splurge.
Let’s start by talking about heated floors.
RADIANT HEATED FLOORS
Most people say that once you’ve tried heated floors in your bathroom, you’ll never go back. Radiant heated floors definitely fall into the category of practical luxury. People use them everyday— even in the summer. Granted, you’ll probably turn the temperature of the floors down in the summer, but many people use their heated bathroom floors all year long.
I live in a hot, humid climate, but I’ve noticed that even in the summer, when we don’t have our bathroom rugs down because they're in the wash, the cold tile is a little uncomfortable. Maybe that’s because my feet are always cold. Cold feet on cold tile, that’s not a good combination. But even in the summer, I think that most people prefer to walk on bathroom rugs than on cold bathroom tile. So think of how nice it would be to have a slightly warm, comfortable floor to walk on first thing in the morning.
Radiant heat is similar to the heat you feel when you stand by a window on a sunny, winter day. The sun warms your face without needing to warm the air around you.
There are two main types of radiant floor heating: hydronic systems and electric radiant heat.
Hydronic systems use polyethylene tubing buried beneath the floor. That tubing is filled with hot water to create the heat. Water is heated to between 100 and 120 degrees Fahrenheit by a boiler. A boiler system is needed for heating the water in the tubes. A boiler is a combination heating system and water heater.
Hot water from the boiler system enters the tubing and from there, the tubes heat the flooring above them. Then the flooring radiates heat to the room, producing warmth.
Hydronic systems are usually used when you want your entire house to be heated with in-floor radiant heat.
Most people won’t be using radiant heat for their entire house, so to get heated master bathroom floors, electric radiant heat is the better choice for most of us. The electric in-floor radiant heat system is the way to go in a smaller space because it’s more cost effective for a single room installation and it’s less complicated to install.
An electric radiant heat system is a supplemental heat source, mainly there to keep your toes warm. Electric systems are typically not meant to be the only heat source for a room.
Installation requires an electrician and a tile installer (although some do-it-yourselfers might want to try their hand at installation). Here’s how the system works:
Thin, electric cables are often pre-attached to flexible, usually mesh, mats. Those mats are installed over the subfloor, in a bed of thin-set mortar. Then that’s covered with the finish flooring.
Ceramic, porcelain or stone tile are the most popular flooring choices to go over heated floors. You could also choose laminate and floating engineered hardwood or floating solid hardwood. Just look for specialized radiant heating mats made for floating floors. But realize that wood doesn't respond as quickly to temperature changes as tile does, so laminate and wood can be used, but ceramic, porcelain and stone tile floors are a better choice for heated floors.
To provide the electrical current, most bathroom heated floor systems need a dedicated 20-amp circuit— a GFCI protected circuit.
GFCI stands for ground fault circuit interrupter. It’s the type of outlet that you most often see in bathrooms. It has those 2 buttons in the center, sometimes one of the buttons is red. They are the type of outlets that shuts off the electric current when it detects that current is flowing along an unintended path, such as through water or a person. You may have experienced this type of outlet shutting off when you used your blowdryer for too long.
Most electric, in-floor heating systems come with a programmable thermostat and some come with a timer so you can have warm floors waiting for you when you wake up in the morning and have them shut off when you leave for work. Heating systems also have features that prevent the floor from overheating.
Radiant heat can also be used in wet areas. Sometimes people add in-floor heat to their shower floor or to a shower bench, but you have to make sure you use a system with the type of heating cable that’s rated for wet installation. If you have trouble finding the appropriate cables, check with your local electrical supply house.
The price for electric radiant heat varies from $5 to $15 per square foot installed.
The other practical luxury we'll talk about today is electronic toilet seat bidets.
ELECTRONIC TOILET SEAT BIDETS
Just in case you don’t know, a bidet is a plumbing fixture that uses a water spray to clean your bottom after you go to the bathroom (number 2). I’ve heard that once you’ve used one, like heated floors, you won’t want to be without them.
We’re not talking about the old school bidet that’s a separate fixture from the toilet— the thing that looks like a short water foundation. Instead, newer electronic bidets are integrated into the toilet seat. Take a look below if you’ve never seen one.
The plumbing manufacturer Toto has sold 40 million bidet attachments worldwide. They call their bidets "washlets". They introduced their first model in Asia in 1980 and brought the bidet to the US in 1990.
In Japan, 76% of households have a washlet. Toilet seat bidets are used widely in Asia. They are also used in the Middle East and they’re now replacing some old school bidets in Europe.
One reason bidets toilet seats became so common in Asia is that toilet paper was not readily available and even when it was available, the toilet paper quality wasn’t very good.
Americans have been slow to warm to the idea of a bidet, but they are now becoming more and more popular in the US. Here’s why…
Jerry Bougher, the marketing manager for toilet seats at Kohler, says “You don’t try to clean the rest of your body with a dry towel, right? “Say you’re covered with mud. Will you clean yourself up with a bunch of paper? No, obviously, you’ll take a shower. It comes down to the same thing with this. Here in the United States we’ve used dry toilet paper to clean ourselves, and it doesn’t always do the job effectively. Cleaning with water is kind of like taking a shower. It’s just, you know, cleaner.”
If you look at bidet toilet seat reviews on Amazon, you’ll see many, many 5 star reviews. People seem to love these things. One comment that I read about bidets in my research said “next to my smartphone, they’ve become my favorite, can’t-do-without technology.”
The bidet seats range in price from about $250 to over $1,700. The basic features of a bidet toilet seat are a seat warmer and a cleaning wand that washes your bottom with warm water. Some of the extras include a blower for drying your bottom, a deodorizer feature, and variable water temperature and pressure settings.
These bidets are fairly easy to install, but you’ll need a nearby electrical outlet, so if you are considering an electronic toilet seat bidet for some of your toilets, make sure your electrician installs an outlet near those toilets.
If you’re hesitant to invest in a bidet toilet seat without having tried one, I’m with you. But here’s what we can do. If you have a Toto or Kohler showroom in your city or you can visit one when you are on vacation, call the showroom to see if you can stop by give the bidet a try. You don’t have to actually "go to the bathroom" while you’re in the showroom, but you can just try the wash and dry features out.
Another option is to order from bidet.org. Their website says “We stand behind our products and we mean it! Bidet.org is the only bidet company in the world to offer a 30 day satisfaction guarantee on all products. We are so confident that you will fall in love with your bidet, we just know you will want to keep it.” They say if you order a bidet and don’t like it, if you ship it back to them, they will refund the purchase price.
They don’t sell ToTo or Kohler bidets, but they do have several brands that have been rated highly on Amazon, like Brondell.
Whether you decide for or against these practical luxuries is a matter of personal preference. But many homeowners who’ve experienced heated floors and toilet seat bidets say that they will never build another house without these indulgences.
Alright, let’s do a couple of quiz questions.
1. True or False. A hydronic radiant heat system, which uses tubing filled with hot water, is best for whole house radiant heating and an electric radiant heat system, which uses electric cables attached to a flexible mat, is best for a smaller area like a master bathroom.
The answer is true.
2. True or False. You’ll need a nearby electrical outlet if you want to install a toilet seat bidet.
This is also true, so you’ll need your electrician to install an outlet near every toilet that you plan to put a bidet toilet seat on.
Please remember that the purpose of this podcast is simply to educate and inform. It is not a substitute for professional advice. The information that you hear is based the only on the opinions, research and experiences of my guests and myself. That information might be incomplete and it’s subject to change, so it may not apply to your project. In addition, building codes and requirements vary from region to region, so always consult a professional about specific recommendations for your home.
Thank you for spending part of your day with me. Come on back next time for another episode of Build Your House Yourself University (BYHYU).